Some One Piece villains consider Luffy beneath them, while others acknowledge his abilities.
Just like in the real world, respect has to be earned. As the main character of the One Piece series, Luffy has to undergo many obstacles to become the Pirate King. Along the way, he must fight through several powerful villains. Whether or not they hold Luffy in high regard is another story.
Given his relative lack of experience, it's not surprising that some villains underestimate Luffy. However, there are a few that give him the respect he deserves. It usually happens when the Straw Hat does something to prove himself. This article will take a look at these specific moments in One Piece.
One Piece villains that respected Luffy
4) Rob Lucci
Rob Lucci never cared much for Spandam, among the most annoying characters in One Piece. The CP9 leader is a cowardly weasel who only cares for himself. Lucci witnessed a better example of leadership during the Enies Lobby arc when he met Luffy for the first time.
The Straw Hat sacrifices everything to rescue Nico Robin, captured by the CP9 organization. He desperately fights their strongest member in Lucci, all for the chance to save his crew member.
Lucci respects his determination, which is why Luffy is a much better leader than Spandam. When a Buster Call arrives during their fight, Lucci hopes that Luffy would survive the Marine ships.
Enel was a tyrannical ruler with a god complex, but even he could recognize someone else's talent. During his fight with Luffy in the Skypeia arc, Enel finds out what it truly means to be a Pirate King.
Luffy explains that he wants to rule over the seas, rather than a simple country. For the sake of reference, he mentions this in Chapter 280 (or Episode 183). Enel is visibly impressed by Luffy's ambitions and commends him for it. Given his power level, that definitely speaks volumes.
One Piece fans still fondly remember Blackbeard's debut appearance in the Jaya arc. When Bellamy's crew attacked Luffy and Zoro in a bar, they refused to fight back. After Nami carried them outside the establishment, Blackbeard told her they were the true winners.
He states that dreams should never die, despite the entire town laughing at him. Of course, the future Emperor didn't care whatsoever. Blackbeard reaffirmed Luffy's desire to become the Pirate King in a single brief moment.
Ironically, the Straw Hat would befriend Bellamy later, while Blackbeard would be his mortal enemy.
Luffy had no choice but to fight Katakuri in Whole Cake Island, the main territory of the Big Mom Pirates. He desperately wanted to save his friends in a dangerous situation. To do so, he needed to bring down the strongest of the Sweet Commanders.
Katakuri is a great fighter, so Luffy didn't have it easy. For the next several hours, they fought in the Mirror World with everything they had. At first, Katakuri didn't see Luffy at his level. After the Straw Hat continued to survive his attacks, the Sweet Commander had this to say:
"I no longer...think that you're below my level."
Given their level of pride and power, not many One Piece villains would outright admit something like this. Katakuri did what Big Mom never could, truly recognizing Luffy's strength.
One Piece villains that didn't give Luffy any respect whatsoever
Granted, this was very early in the One Piece story, back when Luffy was a mere child. During the Romance Dawn arc, Higuma and his mountain bandits were causing trouble in Foosha Village. Luffy tried to stop them, but the bandits didn't take him seriously.
However, they did take the Red Hair Pirates seriously once they interfered. After a Sea King ate Higuma, Luffy strengthened his resolve to become stronger. The mountain bandit wouldn't be the last One Piece villain to underestimate the Straw Hat.
During the Jaya arc, Bellamy was a complete nuisance antagonizing Luffy for his dreams. He also couldn't believe that the Straw Hat would have a higher bounty than he did.
Luffy didn't bother fighting back when provoked by Bellamy and his crew. However, that mindset changed when Bellamy stole treasure from Mont Blanc Cricket. The Straw Hat wasn't going to let that slide.
Bellamy tried to intimidate Luffy with his Devil Fruit, the Bane Bane no Mi. Using a set of springs, he bounced around the battlefield while taunting his opponent. Not only did Luffy not flinch, but he also laid out Bellamy with a single punch. It's among the most satisfying moments in One Piece history.
2) Hody Jones
During the Fishman Island arc, Hody Jones made it clear that he despised the human race. He considered them inferior to his kind, which often clouded his judgment.
This proved to be his downfall when Luffy fought him to save the Ryugu Kingdom. Whether it's on land or underwater, Hody Jones proved to be no match for the Straw Hat. He went down in history as a relatively weak villain by One Piece standards.
1) World Government
The World Government is arguably the biggest threat in the One Piece series. They are directly responsible for issuing bounties to troublesome pirates. However, they never wanted to give Luffy any credit for his work.
When Luffy defeated Crocodile in Alabasta, the government tried to cover it up. Instead, they gave credit to Marine officer Smoker (much to his chagrin).
Later on, during the Dressrosa saga, Luffy defeated Doflamingo and ended his reign of terror. Had it not been for Admiral Fujitora and his sense of justice, the government would've kept that a secret as well. After everything he did in One Piece, Luffy's bounty should be much higher than it suggests.